Vinaya Pitaka

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The Vinaya Pitaka (Pali; Sanskrit) is one of the Three pitakas ("three baskets") found within the major Buddhist Canons. The Vinaya texts present the codes of conduct for monks and nuns.

Among the Early Buddhist schools, several different versions of the Vinaya Pitaka developed. Hence, different versions of the Vinaya were later incorported into the three major Buddhist canons (Pali, Chinese and Tibetan).

About the Vinaya

The texts of the Vinaya "comprise the monastic code, its history, and commentaries on it. As well as detailing all the rules to be kept by monks, nuns, male and female novices, and male and female lay practitioners, they include a wealth of history, biography, and narrative recording the circumstances under which each rule was originally introduced by the Buddha."[1]

Within the Buddhist Canons

Each of the three major Buddhist Canons contain their own versions of the Vinaya Pitaka, based on the Early Buddhist school from which their texts derived.

Pali Canon

The Vinaya Pitaka of the Pali Canon is preserved in the Pali language, "which is based upon a dialect close to that spoken by the Buddha, Old Magadha."[2] The Pali Canon was first brought to Sri Lanka as an oral tradition, and then written down in Sri Lanka.

Chinese Canon

The Vinaya texts of the Chinese Canon include the more or less complete vinaya literature of five Early Buddhist schools.[1] These texts were translated from Sanskrit into Chinese.

Tibetan Canon

The Vinaya texts of the Tibetan Canon "were translated into Tibetan from the Sanskrit texts of the Mūlasarvāstivāda-vinaya, the vinaya tradition held by the first monks to bring their ordination lineage to Tibet."[1]


It it believed that contents of the Vinaya texts were first agreed upon at the First Council shortly after the Buddha's death, and recited by Upali. These teachings were passed down through an oral tradition for several generations before being put into written form.

Most of the different versions of the Vinaya Pitaka are fairly similar.


Scholarly consensus places the composition of the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya in the early centuries of the first millennium, though all the manuscripts and translations are relatively late.[3]

Importance within the tradition

The vinaya is highly regard within the Buddhist tradition. According to tradition, the Buddha stated:

"Whatever Dhamma and Vinaya I have pointed out and formulated for you, that will be your Teacher when I am gone." (Mahaparinibbana Sutta, [D.16])

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 84000.png Discipline: About
  2. Harvey 1990, p. 3.
  3. Vanessa R. Sasson Little Buddhas: Children and Childhoods in Buddhist Texts 2012 Page 46 "Dating the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya is problematic, since all the manuscripts and translations are relatively late. Scholarly consensus places it in the early / centuries of the first millenium. "


  • Harvey, Peter (1990), Introduction to Buddhism, New York: Cambridge University Press 

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